As the late great comedian Norm Macdonald said, âI don’t want to get too political.
But my cantankerous alter ego will say it anyway. Sometimes I think all the outdoor activities I do are actually just disguised work.
Take this last weekend. I was minding my own business, trying to take a few days off from the hustle and bustle of the news cycle, and my friend Allie suggests we go to Tobacco Roots and climb its highest peak, Hollowtop Mountain, 10 604 feet high.
Maybe something quiet will do, I say. We could hang a few fish in the mouth, let them go, that sort of thing.
No, she said. Let’s carry really big backpacks and sleep near the stars and climb the big mountain. Fall colors, she said.
This is how they get you this time of year.
She asks how my knees are. They are great, I say. I haven’t been in too much pain since the last time we climbed a big mountain.
âOh, good,â she replies.
We walk, we smell the colors of autumn, we fish, we set up camp. In the tent that evening, I see that there are still a few lakes around – it’s not too late for some fun tomorrow. We can fish and come home for supper, I said.
Tomorrow we climb the mountain, she reminds me, and tell the story of a bear eating a guy. She sleeps. I lay awake listening to the twigs snap.
There’s the way people climb Hollowtop, and then there’s the way we do it. People follow the trail connecting the lakes and walk towards a simple open bowl up to the saddle. I expect them to have a good time.
We follow the path of most resistance, I guess to count the number of trees fallen into the tobacco roots.
“Do you want to see a fallen tree?” ” I say. “You should meet my ex-wife.”
Reaching a ridge no human has ever set foot on, we slowly turn to false peaks from afar, passing endless boulder fields.
“Do you want to see a field of boulders?” ” I say. “You should meet my ex-wife.”
I don’t have an ex-wife, but being really funny and cantankerous helps me take my mind off things.
The summit of Hollowtop is a lunar landscape. It’s sad, and there’s not a lot of oxygen up there.
We hurriedly left the cold wind behind us and returned by the healthy route. Of course, the beating is not over. I am attacked by hay fever, my eyes are crying and swelling.
I think Allie smiles, but I can’t see for sure through my tears.
We tidy up camp and travel a mile and a half on the trail before the familiar crunch in my knees is replaced by a moan.
“How are you?” Allie asks.
“Yes,” I whimper, and push my way the last few miles to the one-legged, half-blind car, feigning self-respect.
It’s climbing mountains for you. I guess I’ll do it again next week.